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March 2010


‘Child wanted, cash paid’

The shady world of adoption | By Thomas Schuler
Former EU official tive presented studies claiming to
Roelie Post campaigns provide evidence that the citizens
of Europe are in favor of such
worldwide against
European regulations.
foreign adoption. She Post continues to work for Brus-
says the line between sels and is officially permitted by
foreign adoption and the EU to work at her organiza-
child trafficking is too tion, Against Child Trafficking.
It is an unusual situation because
often blurred. She also her organization campaigns
sees potential danger against EU policy. Post pays all
in plans to introduce a expenses linked to the organiza-
trans­national “European tion out of her own pocket. She
Adoption” authority. has an assistant, 36-year-old Arun

Dohle from Aachen.
hen Roelie Post, Both share the common goal
along with a trans- of abolishing foreign adoption. It
lator and a film is an extreme position but one
crew, set off for they hope will become a reality in
Romania some months ago and five years because they believe the
visited Marineta Ciofu, the story world of adoptions is a world with-
the child rights’ activist heard was out real controls. The office of the
a very familiar one. Ciofu had no Hague Convention, which estab-
idea what had happened to her lishes the rules governing adoption,
child. Almost 10 years ago, pov- conducts just as few investigations
erty had forced the single mother as national authorities.
to leave her daughter in a chil- The largest German adoption
dren’s home. But it was her firm agency, International Child Care,
intention to get her back as soon had its license withdrawn due to
as her situation improved. The irregularities although an inquiry
last time she saw her daughter has not yet been held. Family For
was when she was two-and-half You, the largest agency in Austria,
years old. went bankrupt following a series
But her daughter had disap- of compensation claims because
peared. Officials did not want to it had negligently arranged the
give Ciofu any information. It was adoptions of children who were
only 10 years later that Ciofu dis- not orphans. Public prosecutors
covered that an American family are taking no action. Pro Infante,
had adopted her daughter. The another German adoption agency,
transaction was recorded in docu- also closed down because the
ments found by Post that Ciofu agency placed Indian children
did not understand. with German families and incor-
“How can someone take a child rectly declared them orphans.

away without my signature,” she Hundreds of cases were never

asked. Golineh Atai, a journalist investigated and never cleared
from the German regional public up. Terre des Hommes, the larg-
broadcaster WDR, recently trav- Madonna’s adoption of two children from Malawi inspired international criticism. So far, the southern est German agency in the 1970s,
eled to Romania with Post and African country did not have binding regulations on adoptions from abroad, which was exploited by ceased its adoption activities due
adoption agencies.
made a film on the subject. The to irregularities and at the request
film, “Suche Kind, zahle bar adoption agencies in Romania that view with WDR, her former boss dren was one of the bitterest and of its members.
– Die Adoptionslobby” (Child put profit ahead of child welfare. Verheugen confirmed what Post most painful experiences of my Post and her colleague Dohle
Wanted, Cash Paid – The Adop- Around half of these children wrote in her book. “There is a entire political life,” Verheugen repeatedly come across cases
tion Lobby) was broadcast last ended up in the US and the other very well organized lobby that is said of the situation. where documents have been
September on WDR and can be half in European countries, includ- in truth operating a kind of child He was speaking in the past tampered with and children are
watched on YouTube. ing Germany. In Germany, there trafficking system under the guise tense but does the situation look wrongly declared orphans and
Post, 50, was a European Union are about 10 couples wanting to of adoptions,” said Verheugen. any better now? When the Euro- put up for adoption. At the end
official for 20 years. From 1999 to adopt for every child given up for He also spoke of what he called pean Commission and the Coun- of the day, this arrangement is
2005 she was responsible for for- adoption. Consequently, many a “child acquisition policy.” He cil of Europe invited around 150 highly lucrative for some people.
eign adoptions from Romania and German couples try to adopt from said he had “seen with his own experts and government represen- They have collected hundreds of
EU enlargement. Since then, the a foreign country. eyes how catalogues were passed tatives to a two-day conference in such cases to date and believe
Brussels official has been working In Romania today, 43,000 chil- around to interested parties, in Strasbourg early last December, that many more adoptions are
to expose cases of child trafficking dren live in state-run children’s which one could choose a child.” Post says that although the agenda flawed. In 2009, Dohle spent a
that are masquerading as foreign homes or in foster care. Just 800 When Romanian Prime Min- ostensibly focused on the introduc- week traveling through Malawi,
adoptions. are regarded as suitable for adop- ister Adrian Nastase visited US tion of a pan-European adoption talking to human rights groups,
“Poverty is no reason to take tion. And in each one of these Defense Secretary Colin Powell policy, talks actually centered on journalists and court judges about
children away,” she said. “Poverty cases, there are two Romanian in Washington in 2001, their talks the opening up of the Romanian Madonna’s planned adoption.
is not a disease and international couples waiting to adopt, said officially centered on Romania’s adoption market. And indeed, as Post says people in Malawi were
adoptions are not a solution. If on UNICEF representative in Roma- NATO membership. But in actual a commission employee confirmed not aware of the legal concept of
top of everything else, people also nia Edmond McLoughney. So in fact, Powell wanted to talk about to a Romanian journalist, the aim an adoption and its consequences.
lose their children it only worsens actual fact, there is no need for thousands of American couples of the conference was to secure an Though the courts may have even-
their overall situation.” international applications. who had applied to adopt from end to the moratorium. tually authorized Madonna’s
Ciofu was prevented from vis- In 2001, Romania imposed a Romania and who were waiting Preparations for the opening adoption attempt, Dohle and Post
iting her daughter in the chil- moratorium on foreign adoptions. for their children. Powell called of the market in Romania have still view their efforts as a success.
dren’s home after she gave her Soon after, an American adoption for exceptions to be made to the been going on for years. One of Their assessments and arguments
up. And because she did not visit agency took Romania unsuccess- moratorium on adoptions. the key actors in the process is appeared in many reports, includ-
the child, her legal guardianship fully to court. Afterward, the US Verheugen said in these meet- the head of the French adoption ing court documents, and Madon-
was taken away from her. Tac- demanded numerous exceptions. ings, the US had “drawn a politi- organization SERA, Francois de na’s adoption has remained an
tics such as relocating a child to These theoretically only concerned cal link between the clearance of Combret. He may not have been exception in Malawi.
make it impossible for parents applications that had been made children for adoption and Roma- present in Strasbourg but the con- Dohle and Post’s work is impor-
to visit them is a trick used by before the moratorium. But in fact, nia’s accession to NATO. I didn’t ference echoed his views. Three tant, says Wolfgang Weitzel, head
child traffickers to gain access to they didn’t. Until 2004, exceptions think that could be possible.” He years ago in the same place, the of the National Center for Foreign
“abandoned” children through were made on an almost daily went on to say that the political adoption lobby managed to con- Adoption in Bonn, because there
official channels. basis – and another 1,000 children pressure “repeatedly came from vince EU parliamentarians to call are too many people who will do
Following the end of Roma- were placed with foreign families, the same countries”: from France, for a lifting of the moratorium. anything to achieve their adoption
nia’s communist rule, foreign- according to documents from the Italy, Spain, Israel and the US. In Afterward, both the European goal. Any irregularities must be
ers adopted more than 30,000 Romanian adoption authorities. other words, from countries with Commission and the European investigated, he says.
children from the country within In regards to adoption, Roma- high foreign adoption rates. The Parliament began working on an Thomas Klippstein, head of
10 years. Most of them were not nia became a place where people mayor of Bucharest even declared adoption policy for Europe. the German delegation sent to
orphans. felt they could just come and help those exceptions on a “lobby list”: Romania does not want to lift Strasbourg by the German Justice
Romanian couples seeking to themselves. And people like Post For every child adopted, a top its moratorium but this is not a Ministry, said at the conference
adopt, in contrast, did not stand who did not want to turn a blind politician was named as a sponsor. problem for the adoption lobby. that although the Hague Conven-
a chance. They could not afford eye to the situation were viewed American senators such as Edward This is because in the future, every tion is in need of improvement, he
it. Americans, for example, paid as annoying interference. When Kennedy and John Kerry and EU adoption within Europe will be was “not convinced of the need
some $30,000 in fees for one her boss, Günter Verheugen, gave Commission President Romano exactly that: European. All adop- to incorporate an additional legal
child. Multiplied by 30,000 chil- up his post as EU Commissioner Prodi even appeared on that list. tions will be registered and moni- interface,” or in other words, to
dren, that amounts to a turn- for Enlargement, Post was trans- “I was horrified,” said Verheu- tored by a European adoption transfer responsibility to the EU.
over of $900 million. The former ferred elsewhere overnight. She gen. Prodi eventually withdrew authority. This would mean scrap- This would in any case only be
director of Romania’s adoption felt manipulated and fell ill. his sponsorship but Italian Prime ping adoptions on a national level. possible if all member states voted
authority, Theodora Bertzi, in Committing her experiences to Minister Silvio Berlusconi called Responsibility would no longer lie in favor of such a move. Plans to
2006 said that this number was paper became therapy for Post. for an exception to be made and with the national governments but introduce a European adoption
“not exaggerated.” The resulting book, “Romania secured the clearance of 100 chil- with the EU. At the close of the authority could be halted by just
This lucrative amount created an – For Export Only,” was self- dren for adoptive parents. “The second day of the conference, the one ‘no’ vote – from Germany, for
unchecked, mafia-like system of published in 2007. In an inter- question of the Romanian chil- European Commission representa- example n


TOTAL NUMBER of ADOPTIONS in 1988, 1989 and 2004 ADOPTIONS IN 2004 and the CHANGE OVER 1998 adoptionS over the past 20 years

France +8% 50,000

4,079 1988 1998 2004
25,493 40,000
Canada -12% US +45%
13,964 22,884 30,000
1,955 2 2 ,8 8 4 4,079
3,777 3,400 5,541
20,000 1,955
2,441 2,233 1,487
Spain +273% 2,078
5,541 10,000 15 ,7 74 232
TOP 5 COUNTRIES Italy +52% 0 9 ,12 0
3,400 US France Italy Canada Spain